New year, new writing advice – Ashley Farley

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By Ashley Farley

I’ve learned many hard-earned lessons during my journey to become a self-published turned hybrid-published author. I’d like to share a few of those with you, today as we start a new year in hopes it helps you accomplish some new goals. With the internet at our fingertips, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.♥

Make a plan! But be prepared to adjust it accordingly.

The publishing path you choose depends on your ultimate goal for your writing career. Do you dream about hitting the bestseller lists? Or, are you more interested in winning writing awards? Perhaps, like me, you simply want readers to enjoy your work. Defining your goals early will help you make better choices down the road. Your goals will change over time as chosen avenues of interest reach dead ends, but keep an open mind to any potential paths made available to you on your journey. There are opportunities for every author in today’s exciting world of publishing. You just need to find the right ones for you.

Write from the heart

As an author, everything you think and feel is portrayed through your characters. And readers can spot a fake a mile away. If you’re bored writing a scene, your readers will be bored while reading it. So how do you write from the heart? Find that quiet spot in your home or office, get comfortable, and go to that place in your head where only you and your characters exist. Let yourself be free. Open those floodgates and let the words flow. Write whatever comes to mind and heart. Pretend you are writing in a journal. Share your deepest thoughts. But, above all else, write for yourself. Don’t worry about what your husband or your mother or your critique partner might think. Your first draft is strictly between you and your characters. No one will see your words until you’re ready for them to read them. If you decide never to share your pages with anyone else, you’ve at least learned something valuable about yourself in the process.

Trust your gut

In my early days of writing, I belonged to several critique groups, and I nearly drove myself crazy making changes to my manuscript based on feedback I received from my partners. Creative people often have a difficult time looking at art objectively. They see things through their mind’s eye. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except that it can be counterproductive to what you’re trying to accomplish with your own work. No one knows your characters, plots, and settings better than you do. Trust in your gut that you know best for your work. I have several beta readers whom I count on to give me honest constructive criticism. I wait until I have a completed manuscript before asking for their feedback on big picture issues.

Content. Correction. Cover.

It goes without saying that writing a compelling novel is the first step to self-publishing. If your book is no good, no one will read it. When you’ve polished your manuscript as much as you can, hand it off to a good editor — the very best that you can afford. I’m still working with the same editor I started with, a retired editor from Random House who has been a wonderful mentor to me. I typically submit the manuscript for two rounds of editing — the big picture critique followed by the line edit once I’ve made any suggested changes. The process isn’t cheap but well worth every penny. No matter how engaging and well written your novel, you won’t attract readers without a dynamite cover. Working with a professional designer to create your cover is the most exciting part of the publishing process. It’s like giving birth to a baby. The child has been growing inside of you for nine months and you finally get to see what he or she looks like. designed all my self-published covers and interiors. They do a fantastic job and I highly recommend them.

Build your brand early

Create a website. You can learn to do these things yourself for very little money. There are plenty of website builders like where you can drag and drop your way to a stunning site. But a word of warning about blogging. Many authors feel they need to blog in order to build their platform. After I published my first novel, Saving Ben, I started a book blog as a way to promote my work and become more active in the online literary world. I gained vast knowledge about web design, but the enormous amount of time I spent blogging distracted me from advancing my writing career.

Be active on social media. Focus on boosting your following on the avenue of social media where your genre of readers hangs out. For me, that place is Facebook. I have my Facebook Author Page and a private, smaller group of faithful readers, and I pay two virtual assistants to help provide fresh content to both.

Build your email list. Mailerlite or Mailchimp are both easy to use and free for the first several hundred followers. Create a signup form on your website and start collecting followers today.

I highly recommend you seek guidance from the professionals for these, and all, areas of publishing. You’ll gain valuable knowledge by listening to podcasts and attending webinars and reading blogs dedicated to publishing like The Book Designer.

You can with YouTube

I’m self-taught when it comes to most areas of my authorpreneurship. I learned the craft of writing at Gotham Writers Workshop, a New York-based writing school that offers an extensive selection of online classes. With the help of YouTube tutorials, I learned to build websites for WordPress, create graphics with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and make book trailers using iMovie and Final Cut Pro. Start learning now. You’ll be glad you have these skills when the time comes.

Keep writing and never give up

These are the two most important pieces of advice I can offer. Once you finish your first novel, immediately begin working on the next. With each publication, you increase your discoverability. In addition, starting a new project will help you focus on your career instead of obsessing on the sales of your previous publications. Whatever you do, never ever give up! Hard work always pays off. If something isn’t working for you, try a new approach. Take advantage of the current publishing climate where dreams come true for writers like you and me.

Ashley Farley is a writeaholic, exercise junkie and photography enthusiast. The author of the bestselling Sweeney Sisters Series, she writes books about women for women.

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